Back to the Future: The Card Game Review

In case you haven't read enough reviews on Back to the Future: The Card Game, I will now finally get around to writing my thoughts on it, but since I've personally seen several reviews of it floating around, I probably won't be as in-depth as I would on some other games.

In Back to the Future (which is a re-implementation of Chrononauts, which I never played and thus will not mention again in this review), the timeline is laid out in front of all of the players. From there, each player represents a potential descendant of some of the characters from the Back to the Future movies. The goal of the game is to set the timeline up correctly so that your character will be born, and then to go back in time and ensure that time travel is never invented. To do this, there are different "linchpins" and "ripple points" in the timeline. Various cards allow you to change what happens in a linchpin event, and this causes a "ripple" through the timeline - thus flipping cards onto their opposite side to reflect the new outcome of the linchpin event. Once all of your correct events happens, you must go back in time and keep Doc from hitting his head when hanging his bathroom clock and getting the idea for time travel.

The main thing that I liked about Back to the Future was the concept of the timeline. If you assume that time travel is possible, then it makes sense that changing an important event in the past would then ripple through other events and cause different outcomes. This concept was reflected well and was well executed in the game.

The next thing to mention about Back to the Future that many people would consider a "pro" (though not necessarily for me) is the amount of flavor in the game. If you really enjoyed the Back to the Future movies (and watch them often enough to remember what happened in each of them) then you will really enjoy looking through the cards, the timeline, the characters, etc.  (As an added bonus, you will probably also get to go first when you play, as this is decided by whoever has watched them most recently). However, as I have not watched them in quite some time, I wound up ignoring most of this flavor text and simply paying attention to things like "C-3 flips C-5".

Now to the cons... the first thing that I didn't like about the timeline was that it was difficult for me to follow by looking at it. Whereas I said that I like the timeline mechanic in the "pros" section, and I stick to that, I still had some concerns with it.  I think that a lot of this was because I ignored the actual flavor text and only paid attention to which linchpin number flipped which ripple effect numbers, but it was something that I felt was difficult to follow visually. In general, I'm not sure that there is a better way of laying out a timeline, however, so this is a fairly minor complaint.

The main thing that I did not like about Back to the Future was how the victory mechanic worked. Once you had all of your character's events setup, you had to go flip the linchpin trying to get Doc not to get the idea of time travel. There are 5 linchpin cards in the corresponding pile, and you flip over the top one - if it is the card that says that he successfully hangs his clock, then time travel never occurs and you win the game. If it is one of the 4 other cards, then the game continues. I do not like that whether you win or not is random. I understand not wanting to guarantee that a player wins the game (though I don't necessarily agree with it), but I would like that player to at least get some kind of advantage by flipping over an unsuccessful card. This would mean that at least their turn is not a total waste, and they also didn't waste whatever card allowed them to flip the linchpin in the first place.

Overall, I give Back to the Future a 7.0/10. It is a playable game, and I would not mind playing it more. If you're a big fan of the movies, then you should definitely check it out, but if you are just a gamer looking for something to play, you may want to try it before you buy.

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